In the winter of 2003, the relatively newly married couple Tim and Becky Cron bought the Stanley Baking Company in the dirt-road heart of Stanley, Idaho. The one-story log cabin bakery with a wraparound porch, backdropped by the imposing Sawtooth Mountains, was three years old when it changed hands. It had already garnered a reputation in the community as a popular breakfast spot for a handful of griddle options and handmade baked goods. The Crons had confidence that they could continue to grow the bakery’s success and committed themselves to their vision of a small business that thrived on local support, quality ingredients, and an energetic, welcoming atmosphere.
Tim and Becky met in Ketchum, Idaho, in the early ’90s while living the ski bum life by day and working in restaurants at night. They were married in Stanley in 2001 and, immediately thereafter, set their sights on finding a way to make it possible to live year-round in that quiet town close to their beloved mountains and rivers. The Stanley Baking Company was a perfect fit for them: They were in their 20s, they had the entrepreneurial spirit to create something of their own and were thrilled with the idea of being their own bosses; plus, they knew what good food was.
It took the new owners a couple of years to get into the swing of running a popular seasonal business. They were both working in the bakery every single day and were also learning how to use and maintain new kitchen equipment and how to do payroll. The catch was that they were tackling all of these tasks while also living in a camper and having to move every 15 days in compliance with Forest Service rules.
“The first couple of years we were as busy as we could handle with our small staff of five or six people,” Tim remembers.
Still, their ambitions expanded. In the winter of 2004, Tim and Becky found themselves standing in the freezing-cold dining room of the Sawtooth Hotel, a two-story log cabin landmark from the 1930s that was just two streets over from the bakery. The storied hotel had lived many lives—everything from being a popular place for gambling to a breakfast joint, and even a campus for Albertson College students. Now it was for sale again.
The Crons didn’t have a background in construction and knew it would be a huge project, but Becky had a vision for the hotel’s restoration and the smaller buildings on the property. They bought it with Becky’s sister Kelli Kerns and devoted several years to what they call a labor of love. In 2010, the Sawtooth Hotel reopened its doors, first as a picturesque mountain hotel, and then, in year two, they opened the restaurant.
“It was good energy,” remembers Kelli. “From the get-go, we felt that, just like the bakery, we could build on that energy.”
Now, on Friday summer evenings, the outdoor tables, benches and gravel courtyard can be found busy with visitors, seasonal workers, and locals alike, all dressed in their Stanley best, enjoying a dinner or glass of wine, listening to live music, and watching the sunset behind the Sawtooth skyline.
The success of the Stanley Baking Company and the Sawtooth Hotel is due to several factors, not least of which is the food; a product of the commitment the Crons have made to using home-made and locally sourced products and ingredients whenever possible. Indeed, they make several specialty items from scratch, including jam, sauerkraut, beef sausage and migas sauce (a traditional sauce from the Iberian Peninsula made from fresh chilies, tomatoes and spices). One challenge to this commitment to quality food is creating a menu that can be consistently provided given the seasonal nature of their remote high-alpine town, but it is also a catalyst for one of their great strengths.
“It has created commitments to our providers and relationships with them,” Tim said. “From the guy who fixes the refrigerator to the woman who sells us the grass-fed beef, and the company we buy coffee from. We support each other.”
Owning the Stanley Baking Company has allowed Tim and Becky to live the life of their dreams; road tripping in the fall with their van, bikes, boats and dog, and then settling into Stanley for the cold, peaceful winter, skiing nearly every day and prepping for the busy summer season. From opening day in May to closing day in October, the bakery has a line, sometimes out the door, of regulars and newcomers, whom there seem to be more of each season.
In the winter of 2016, Tim and Becky expanded the bakery by 1,200 square feet to handle the extra customers and the extra staff. Last season, 38 people worked at the bakery, not all full time, but still a stark contrast to the five or six employees who staffed the tiny log cabin in the beginning. For a company that operates only six months out of the year, being busy isn’t bad.
“The growth in visitors is natural. Idaho as a whole is growing,” Tim observed. “The boom is great. We’re grateful we have a great staff to rely on that are committed to our vision.
“We’re also grateful for our great customers. Our place is theirs. They bring their friends. They start their adventures with a meal at our place.”
For something that started as a labor of love, knowing that their customers mirror that passion for homemade products and a welcoming atmosphere, and then share it with others, is the ultimate compliment. ⎪